Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Rulin's

New Year's Rulin's
by Woody Guthrie

These are Woody Guthrie's New Year's resolutions from 1942, via Brainpickings

Woody Guthrie's birthplace in Okemah, OK, 1979
I'm not much of a one for either blogging or making New Year's resolutions, but I came across this today, and it seems to epitomize why Woody Guthrie has always been seminal in my own life--why I moved to Oklahoma from Chicago, why I respect the working man and his sense of what's right over the philosopher and the professor, and why I love folk music.

Woody Guthrie had a hard hard life. He wrote two wonderful autobiographical books whose titles and themes express the essence of who he was, Bound for Glory, and Born to Win, a collection of writings, stories and poems, which he wrote prolifically until his health deteriorated. These titles express his boundless hope and optimism as well as his grit and determination in the face of adversity. He carried the hereditary disease of Huntington's Chorea, which leads to dementia and muscle dysfunction, he saw his sister burn to death when he was seven, his mother was confined to an insane asylum when he was 14, he lost children to fire, wives to divorce, jobs to politics, and his own ability to play the guitar through yet another fire injury. He never achieved the success, stability and recognition commensurate with his talents. Yet his writing and singing are full of hope and humor, and above all, compassion for the plight of others. 

Guthrie is most well-known today for his thousands of songs, many based on traditional folk music, which he popularized and brought from obscurity, as well as the ones he wrote himself which are considered standards. So here are a few of his songs. And I don't think anyone can go too far wrong following that list of rulin's. Now I'm going to go 'wash teeth, if any.'

"As through this world I've wandered I've seen lots of funny men;
some will rob you with a sixgun, and some with a fountain pen..." 
~Woody Guthrie

Images courtesy wikipedia


  1. That is so cool. Thanks Hedgie. (hope you don't mind that I call you that sometimes). I love the little illustrations on the sides, and I particularly like #'s 11, 19 and 20. Your blog is a good way to start the new year. Cheers, and all the best in 2012!

  2. I bet it won't surprise you much when I confess that Woody Guthrie is one of the reasons I write at all.

  3. nice...great stuff hedge...was really cool to see his rulins...simple and straight...know the songs but dont know the writings...will add to my list of rulins to look them up...happy today hedge...smiles.

  4. Wow, Hedge, thanks for this. I am astounded by the suffering he endured in his life - often those are the most compassionate of people. I am going to chase down those books now. I love peoples' stories - they are usually more interesting than anything a writer can dream up.

  5. Thanks all, and Happy 2012.

    @Mary: I've been called worse, believe me. ;-)

    @MZ--nope, totally unsurprised, though I think the writing would come anyway--but it does help to have a role model, and lord knows, he's been that for a lot of people. I used to play that Pretty Boy Floyd song and dream about Oklahoma. It's never let me down, either, though I could wish it was a little more lefty-friendly these days.

    @Sherry: yes, I agree--truth is stranger and often more worth reading than fiction. Happy New Year!

  6. That list is cute. I must confess, Woody never grabbed me, really. Fred Neil is more my speed. I never knew about all the fiery disasters he went through. What a helluva lot to have to go through.

    And hey...that Emmylou Harris chick in the last video is awful cute. :-P

  7. @FB: Yes, and her voice in that song is especially forlorn and sweet as fresh-pressed cider, I think. I understand he is not everybody's cup of tea, but I came to music through folk, and folk is what really speaks to me--maybe its all that handed-down oral tradition poetry and tall tales, I dunno. But we all have our various heroes in life. Thanks for reading, m'dear.

  8. I'll got with #3, #8 and #17 in particular. What a soul of the American road. If he could keep on keepin' on despite everything walled up against him in the Great Depression, well, shoot, so can I. Thanks for his vote of confidence, H -- Here's to jazzed-up hedge elves in Two Oh Twelve. - Brendan

  9. @B: I like #25 and #26, and that #8 is a challenge indeed. Yes, we live pretty soft, most of us, compared to the hard times our grandparents and great-grandparents knew. I don't think we suffer any the less, because those hurts and shards in the heart are part of the human experience, but I think they surprise us more because we aren't used to facing the kind of hardships on a daily basis that they took for granted. And I'm all for more elves in 2012. I hope you'll have a few sea sprites for them to play with.

  10. Everyone's life, when we have the time to look, is so layered and textured. Thanks for sharing this, hedgewitch.

    I don't make New Year's resolutions. Resolve, when it comes, has its own timetable I've always found.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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